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Poor stock gauge visibility - need a fix

Discussion in '4th Gen 4Runners (2003-2009)' started by Sarge, Jan 16, 2019.

  1. Jan 16, 2019 at 5:58 AM
    #1
    Sarge

    Sarge [OP] New Member

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    Ohio, Illinois
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    2003 4Runner Limited V8
    I like the 4Runner - really like it a lot.

    BUT - those stock gauges buried down inside the tunnel-like bezels doesn't work for an older guy with a bad eye issue, I'm slowly going blind and either have to run the headlights constantly or use an app on my phone to be able to read the actual speed. Hate not being able to see the gauges - pathetic design on Toyota's part.

    I know the '03 has the issue of the Auto Headlamps feature dimming the lights down and taking away the dimmer control. There is a bypass fix for this, but I want something different - I want those gauge lamps on any time the engine is running. This would be more like the display system in my '14 Dodge Ram Big Horn - which is far easier to see the gauges for me. I need those gauges lit fully any time I'm driving and retain the stock dimmer control for long drives at night. Light sensitivity is a big problem, especially when there is snow on the ground or any bright backround and a dim foreground object - like those gauges.

    There has to be a way around the stock system's power circuits somewhere in the plethora of wiring harnesses and relays. Can anyone figure out how to supply that dimmer switch circuit at full power when the ignition is in the run position?

    Sarge
     
  2. Jan 16, 2019 at 11:47 AM
    #2
    WallyT4R

    WallyT4R New Member

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    I would think you could bypass the dimmer switch. Would most likely have to disassemble the dash to get to it.
     
  3. Jan 17, 2019 at 6:17 AM
    #3
    Sarge

    Sarge [OP] New Member

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    2003 4Runner Limited V8
    That's the problem - I want to keep the dimmer switch functional for long trips in the dark. During the work season, most days I drive to a job in the dark and return home in the dark - some very long days that can create eye stress I don't need. Power to those gauge lights is being cut off by a relay somewhere that is subject to input from the daylight sensor, or at least seems like the case anyway. I need to jump power from the ignition feed in the run position directly to the gauge light dimmer and leave those other circuits out, without causing a feedback loop or any other unintended consequences. If I can't resolve the problem I'll get rid of the thing - already walked away from it twice into a store with the headlights on, don't need a dead battery and some locations I work in are very remote and not open to the public. Don't need to become stranded by a gauge lighting system that is poorly designed - with my eyes it's a problem I cannot tolerate.

    Sarge
     
  4. Jan 17, 2019 at 11:21 AM
    #4
    WallyT4R

    WallyT4R New Member

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    Ok here is another possible fix. Cover the sensor so no light can get to it. Maybe some foam?? Wrap electrical tape around and over it?? You should have these sensors on your dash up by the windshield. Do you??? The black one is the auto light sensor, the other is your auto climate control sensor. I would try not to cover the climate control sensor because it may be required for your a/c system. But theoretically if you cover the black one the system should think it's dark all the time and keep the dash lights on.

    Your 4 should turn off the lights before the battery will be drained too much to start the vehicle. That used to be an issue back in the day but not for modern vehicles.

    114921d1396193361-sensors-my-dashboard-2_c90a3e306d3a29357ccff8af5e26bf49c556b289.jpg
     
  5. Jan 18, 2019 at 9:50 AM
    #5
    Sarge

    Sarge [OP] New Member

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    2003 4Runner Limited V8
    I had actually considered doing just that - but when the Auto feature is used the dumb thing dims the gauge lamps and removes the dimmer function for whatever reason. Glad to know there is an actual headlamp timeout designed into the control module - at least they were thinking smart when they did that part.

    This issue is only on the '03 model year, in '04 they evidently changed the wiring harness to fix the problem and had issued a TSB on June 20th, 2003 - TSB EL010-03. That one is now obsolete and not covered in any way - so, you're on your own here. I knew of the TSB and it is mentioned on quite a few forums, but the links are dead now since it is obsolete and has been removed for whatever reason. Got the same post as here going on the 4Runner.org forum and got an answer today from an old friend that didn't even know I had bought a 4Runner, lol - he did some digging and copied/pasted the whole text for the bulletin in our thread - which was a heck of a surprise. That text, and the whole thread is here - It's nothing more than a 31.5" long jumper wire added between the power supply wire to the dimmer control for gauge lamps and the gauge cluster's connector plug. Simple, effective, and no feedback issues. Designed by Toyota's electrical engineers and approved as a fix for the customer complaint of dim gauges during certain lighting conditions - such as, most of the damned time. I'll have to get with my son in law to get it into his garage (heated) and get it done - not the first time we've been into the dash, either.

    This also gives me the opportunity to tie into the dimmer control output to run a new wire up into the headliner at the map lights and add an ambient light up there for lighting up the center console area at night - and allow the thing to be controlled by the dimmer as well. My '14 Dodge Ram Big Horn has one and I love it - just bright enough to help you find controls or things in the dark, but not interfere with your night vision and driving. It's a common feature now on a lot of new vehicles, wish they had thought of that one a long time ago but it's not too hard to add things like this with the advent of cheap leds - already have some on hand for that purpose.

    Sarge
     
    WallyT4R likes this.
  6. Jan 18, 2019 at 5:39 PM
    #6
    WallyT4R

    WallyT4R New Member

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    That's great, glad you found a solution!
     
  7. Jan 18, 2019 at 5:47 PM
    #7
    Sarge

    Sarge [OP] New Member

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    Ohio, Illinois
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    2003 4Runner Limited V8
    I'll try to document the mod with some pics as well as the dome/map light mods to prevent feedback with the rest of the interior lamps. Fairly easy and known fixes, but the map light mod also creates an issue when trying to use just one or both map lights - the mod makes all of the interior courtesy lamps come on with the map light via a ground loop. I had to add 2 diodes to stop that - works great. Just need a break in other chores and the weather so I can get it in the shop.

    Sarge
     
    WallyT4R likes this.

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